Cellphone deal makes a difference

Roslyn Pharmacy owner Andrew Hou, holds a smartphone, watched by son Josh and daughter Ella. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Roslyn Pharmacy owner Andrew Hou, holds a smartphone, watched by son Josh and daughter Ella. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN

Banter and communication have improved in the Hou household because of rules limiting smartphone use, Roslyn Pharmacy owner Andrew Hou says.

Concerned by research about adolescent depression, Mr Hou and his wife Amy drew up a family smartphone contract which son Josh (14) and daughter Ella (12) signed.

United States research shows a 60% increase in adolescent depression after 2006, a year before smartphones went on the market, he said.

Mr Hou had noticed dispensing changes in the Dunedin pharmacy.

"We definitely have seen more antidepressants in adolescents being dispensed.

"[It’s] more than ever before.

"While there is no concrete evidence that smartphone use does lead to mental health issues, there’s certainly a lot of corresponding evidence."

Just two weeks after taking effect, the cellphone contract was making a difference.

"We’ve got banter all the time.

"It’s quite interesting."

While the pair initially said the rules were not fair, they were "really accepting" when the reason was explained. 

"It’s been fantastic, a really interesting learning experience for us all."

The rules included no cellphone use in bedrooms, or before  getting ready for school.

Previously, the pair watched videos on their phones during breakfast.

They were more aware now of their surroundings.

"We’d be frustrated because they weren’t listening, whereas now, I guess they’re more present," Mr Hou said.

Ella said while her first reaction had been negative, using her phone less made it "easier to focus".

Most of her friends had no restrictions on smartphone use.

"I think one of my friends do, but everybody else can go on it whenever."

Mr Hou said his son had needed a Facebook account because he had been missing basketball practice, which was a reflection on how schools were communicating with pupils. As the children were young, phones were not a big part of their social life yet. Mr Hou intended to keep the rules throughout their teenage years.

"I think it’s really important that parents are involved and follow what [their children] post."

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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